Nicosia, Athens bourses set to launch joint trading platform

NICOSIA – The stock exchanges of Athens and Cyprus will launch a common trading platform for the two markets on October 30, the chairman of the Cyprus Stock Exchange said yesterday. Authorities hope the operation of the platform will give the small Cypriot bourse wider visibility and open it to a new pool of institutional investors. The market has a capitalization of 5.92 billion Cyprus pounds ($13.1 billion), excluding corporate and government bonds, and trades in securities of some 144 companies. «The move will eradicate one of the weaknesses that we had, that of attracting foreign funds,» said bourse chairman Akis Kleanthous. The Cypriot stock exchange was created in 1996 but despite its short history, has had a volatile past. It was one of the best-performing markets worldwide with a 688 percent advance in its all-share index in 1999, only to see it crumble a year later sapping the savings of thousands. Cypriot investors have started to make a tentative comeback to the market, which has been revamped into main, parallel and alternative sectors linked to how closely companies follow corporate governance guidelines. The securities commission has also been given broader powers. The bourse will launch roadshows abroad in November, starting with a scheduled presentation in London on November 2, Kleanthous said. The timing of the launch had been repeatedly delayed to facilitate legislative and technological changes needed for the linkup. Mock trading sessions have been held on a regular basis since August, and Kleanthous did not rule out closing the market for one or two days leading up to the launch to iron out any last-minute problems. «Our most recent mock sessions were successful and additional ones are scheduled up to the last minute,» said Kleanthous. «We believe we are in a position to successfully conclude this.» The linkup will be a major transition for Cypriots. Shares – but not Cyprus government bonds and treasury bills – will be denominated in euros. Stock prices will be converted into euros at the rate on October 27. European Union member Cyprus expects to adopt the euro in January 2008, replacing the Cyprus pound. The new trading hours will be 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. instead of the present 10.10 a.m. to 1 p.m.